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Tough Start for AMI's 'Reality Weekly' Mag

New publication aims high but misses its short-term mark

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While Brangelina and Jennifer Aniston still get shoppers’ attention at the newsstand, the Kardashians, Housewives and Teen Mom are the new cover stars. So American Media Inc.’s Reality Weekly, a new magazine focused on the exploits of reality TV characters, might have seemed like a no-brainer. But so far, it hasn’t come close to matching the popularity of the genre.

AMI initially put 350,000 copies on newsstands, with hopes to get that number to 1 million newsstand copies in six weeks. But with that date passed, Reality Weekly was just nearing a 500,000 distribution and sales of around 100,000, according to the publisher, even with the lowest cover price in the celeb weekly category ($1.79).

Advertising also has been inconsistent. AMI said it hoped to have 10 to 12 pages per issue, but they’ve dipped in recent weeks (the Feb. 20 issue sold just six ad pages), and many of them are of the less-desirable diet pills ilk.

Execs said they started selling the magazine late in the planning process and that advertisers are cautious about buying a new product, but expressed optimism about the title’s future.

“A new magazine can be a tough sell,” said David Jackson, AMI’s evp and group publisher for entertainment. As for growing circ, AMI says it’s still learning what’s catching on with readers and is considering a digital format for subscriptions, which will save money on mailing costs. “I think there’s a learning curve that we’re going through,” said David Leckey, AMI’s evp for consumer marketing. “What we’d like to do is get [sales] up to 200,000 or more. We need to establish what are those dozen or so cover subjects that can carry the sale.”

But Reality Weekly has some built-in limitations. “You’re not guaranteed to have something that people will want to buy every week,” said Jack Hanrahan, editor of industry newsletter CircMatters. “The editor of Us Weekly or People can decide when it’s time to put one of those reality stars on the cover, but the editor of Reality Weekly doesn’t have a choice—whether there’s something to say about one of those individuals or not.”

Getting retailers’ support is another issue, given they can make more money by selling additional copies of a more established (and expensive) weekly, Hanrahan said. AMI claims retailers have been very supportive.

For now, it seems, Reality Weekly just has to hope that reality stars keep misbehaving—and continue to give up all the salacious details.